The Wisconsin Badgers haven’t had a more disappointing loss all season than the March 3 loss to the Purdue Boilermakers. The Badgers were huge favorites, but were outplayed on defense – which is surprising for one of the best defensive teams in the Big 10. Before this loss, Wisconsin was practically assured a top four Big 10 finish (and an important first-round bye) even if they would fall to the Michigan State Spartans on March 7. However, now the game with the Spartans becomes one of Wisconsin’s most important games of all season.
Wisconsin needs the first-round bye in the Big 10 tournament if the Badgers want to compete and move up in seeding for the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin has beaten many good teams all season, but the Big 10 is such a talented conference this season that it will be nearly impossible to win the tournament without the bye. Losses, like the one to Purdue, are the reason the Badgers need the first-round bye in the first place. Wisconsin struggles against mid-level Big 10 opposition and would certainly be facing a mid-level Big 10 team in the first round with a loss.
The game March 7 against the Spartans went from a battle for bragging rights to a must-win game for the Badgers. With the game being at Michigan State (who has lost only once at home all season to No. 1 Indiana), Wisconsin has a nearly impossible task ahead of them. However, last time the Badgers heard nearly impossible, they defeated the No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines.